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Philippines: New World Bank Report Cites Strategies to Breaking Cycles of Political and Criminal Violence

April 11, 2011

MANILA, APRIL 11, 2011Repeated cycles of political and criminal violence deprive people of opportunities for a better life and strengthening national institutions and improving governance in ways that prioritize citizen security, justice, and jobs can help break this trap, says a new report from the World Bank.

In the newly released “World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development”, the World Bank says more than 1.5 billion people in many countries across the globe suffer from various economic, political, and security problems caused by these cycles of violence.

The World Development Report is produced on an annual basis and is the Bank's major analytical publication. Each year it focuses on a particular aspect of development. By analyzing the nature, causes, and consequences of violent conflict today, and the successes and failures in responding to it, the WDR 2011 aims to sharpen the discussion on what can be done to support societies struggling to prevent or grapple with violence and conflict.

The Report says that while much of the world has made rapid progress in reducing poverty in the past 60 years, areas characterized by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence are being left far behind, their economic growth compromised and their human indicators stagnant.

No low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single Millennium Development Goal, the Report points out.

Mr. Robert B. Zoellick, President of the World Bank Group, says in the Report’s foreword that “a civil conflict costs the average developing country roughly 30 years of GDP growth, and countries in protracted crisis can fall over 20 percentage points behind in overcoming poverty.”

“Finding effective ways to help societies escape new outbursts or repeated cycles of violence is critical for global security and global development—but doing so requires a fundamental rethinking, including how we assess and manage risk,” says Mr. Zoellick, whose 2008 speech on “Fragile States: Securing Development” inspired work on WDR2011.

Mr. Zoellick adds: “If we are to break the cycles of violence and lessen the stresses that drive them, countries must develop more legitimate, accountable and capable national institutions that provide for citizen security, justice and jobs.”

World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman, leading the Manila launch of the WDR 2011, underlines the study’s focus on strategies in tackling the challenges that developing economies encounter from conflicts of any form. “Violent conflict is a key factor in explaining lagging development outcomes in some parts of the country. A peace agreement will be a critical breakthrough, but it will take more than that to get conflict-affected regions back on track. A political settlement must be backed by stability, security and justice, more inclusive and transparent local governance, job creation and greater engagement of communities in local development processes,” Mr. Hofman said.

The World Bank report says that while civil wars are declining in number, new forms on conflict and violence—organized crime and trafficking, civil unrest due to global shocks, and terrorism—have emerged.

Organized violence today, the WDR 2011 says, appears to be spurred by a range of domestic and international stresses, such as youth unemployment, income shocks, tensions among ethnic, religious or social groups, and trafficking networks.

In citizen surveys done for the Report, unemployment was overwhelmingly the most important factor cited for recruitment into gangs and rebel movements. Risks of violence are greater when high stresses combine with weak capacity or lack of legitimacy in key national institutions, as shown by the recent turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the Philippines, the Report lists the Muslim separatists groups (Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front) as an example of a conventional political conflict within a country, and the Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah links with Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao as “local conflicts with transnational ideological connections.”

Other forms of violence noted in the Philippines are: local clan conflicts (local intergroup conflict) and kidnap for ransom, human trafficking, methamphetamine source for East and Southeast Asia (organized crime or trafficking with accompanying violence).

The WDR adds that “capable, legitimate institutions are crucial” because they are able to mediate the stresses that otherwise lead to repeated waves of violence and instability: more than 90 percent of civil wars in the 2000s occurred in countries that already had a civil war in the previous 30 years.

Elsewhere, gains made through peace processes are often undermined by high levels of organized crime, the Report says, adding that countries where violence takes root “fall far behind in development,” with poverty rates more than 20 percentage points higher, on average, in countries where violence is protracted than in other countries.

Stopping repetitive cycles of violence requires fostering more capable and legitimate institutions and better governance, the Report argues. In situations of violence and fragility, deliberate efforts are needed to build political coalitions that are “inclusive enough” to generate broad national support for change, it says.

The World Bank report cites five practical programs at the national level to link rapid confidence-building to longer-term institutional transformation:

  • Support for community-based programs for preventing violence, creating employment and delivering service, and offering access to local justice and dispute resolution systems in insecure areas.
  • Programs to transform security and justice institutions in ways that focus on basic functions and recognize the linkages among policing, civilian justice and public finances.
  • Basic job creation schemes, including large scale public and community-based works that do not crowd out the private sector, access to finance to bring producers and markets together, and the expansion of access to assets, skills, work experience and finance.
  • Involvement of women in security, justice and economic empowerment programs.
  • Focused anti-corruption actions that demonstrate how new initiatives can be well governed, drawing on external and community capacity for monitoring.
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